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Holier than thou? These Indian women shattered prevailing notions long before Western women’s emancipation

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Title: Heroines — Powerful Indian Women of Myth and History; Author: Ira Mukhoty; Publisher: Aleph; Price: Rs 499; Pages: 211

Long before the concept of women’s emancipation became a realisation in the Western world, Indian history and mythology were already adorned by a series of prominent women figures who shattered all prevailing notions of the time. A new book wonderfully captures this facet.

Although the notion of heroism among men generally revolves around “physical strength and extravagant bravery” the same proposition is not easily defined for women, argues author Ira Mukhoty in “Heroines: Powerful Indian Women of Myth and History”.

The book paints engrossing portraits of eight “Heroines” from Indian history and mythology, throwing light on a very significant aspect of the country’s cultural heritage.

“Men have had, historically, a much wider tapestry against which to play out their feats. Stormy rivers to navigate and savage continents to discover and subjugate. Women’s heroism has tended to be of a very different nature, less easily contained and categorised,” contends Mukhoty.

In “Heroines” we meet lotus-eyed, dark-skinned Draupadi, Dharma Queen, whose story emerged almost three millennia ago; the goddess Radha who sacrificed societal respectability for a love that transgressed convention; Ambapali, a courtesan, who stepped out of the luxurious trappings of Vaishali to follow the Buddha and wrote a single, haunting poem on the evanescence of beauty and youth.

We also come across Raziya, the battle-scarred warrior, who proudly claimed the title of Sultan, refusing its fragile feminine counterpart, Sultana; the courageous Meerabai who repudiated her patriarchal destiny as cloistered daughter-in-law of a Rajput clan; the gentle Mughal princess Jahanara: who claims the blessings of both Allah and the Prophet Muhammad and wishes ‘never to be forgotten’.

And then there are two more known figures, Laxmibai, widow, patriot and martyr, who rides into legend and immortality fighting for her adopted son’s birthright; and Hazrat Mahal, courtesan, begum, and rebel queen, resolute till the very end in defying British attempts to seize her ex-husband’s kingdom.

The underlying theme that connects all the women in the book is their “unassailable belief” in a cause for which they are willing to fight, in one form or another, unto death. “In every case this belief, whether it has to do with a divine love, a mystic truth, or a denied kingship, leads them to a confrontation with a horrified patriarchy,” writes Mukhoty.

More importantly, each of these women are a challenge to the accepted status quo of the honourable woman living in the Indian society. The author has chosen Draupadi, a much contended character from Indian mythology, as the fulcrum of the offering.

“Though she fails and makes mistakes, and is shockingly volatile, she will remain all her life true to the call of her heart. She maintains her claim for vengeance and justice though it casts her, alone, against all the forces of the ruling patriarchy,” says Mukhoty.

And then there is also the example of Laxmibai, who was transformed into a “jezbel, an object of libidinous curiosity” in colonial narratives. She was later hailed as a freedom fighter while her previous role as an able diplomat and ruler has been clearly wiped off our memories.

To cut a long story short, all of these women are those who may not be accepted as “the honourable woman”. Women in India, for instance, have long been urged to follow Sita’s example of “wifely submission” while the image of Draupadi “rails against a culture that values a king’s duty and a brother’s loyalty above a wife’s honour”.

The author, to a large extent, succeeds in restoring these remarkable figures to their rightful place in our collective psyche. The offering makes for a refreshing read and is a well-researched, documented and splendid attempt to correct some of our historical ignorance.

More than anything else, this book is a fitting mirror to the Western world, reminding them that long before women rose to equality in that sphere, these Indian women had already risen to the highest levels of Indian society.

(This review is based on an advance copy received from Aleph Book Company. Saket Suman can be contacted at [email protected])

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Google ‘Launchpad Accelerator’ India chapter to nurture desi startups

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New Delhi, July 10: In a bid to nurture Indian startups working in the fields of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), Google on Tuesday announced to open the India chapter of its global “Launchpad Accelerator” mentorship programme.

The three-month “Launchpad Accelerator” India programme has been designed to grow the AI/ML ecosystem by helping desi startups build scalable solutions for the country’s unique problems.

The programme, based out of Bengaluru, will provide a cohort of 8-10 Indian startups mentorship and support from the best of Google in AI/ML, Cloud, UX, Android, web, product strategy and marketing, along with up to $100K of Google Cloud credits, the company said in a statement.

“India has the appetite to build entrepreneurs of the future and we are proud to announce a focused programme for the next wave of Indian entrepreneurs, who are using new technologies to solve the country’s needs,” said Roy Glasberg, Global Launchpad Founder.

Over the years, Google has worked with some incredible startups across India who are using advanced technologies such as AI/ML to tackle everything from agri-tech to language web, healthcare and transportation.

“With the dedicated India-only Launchpad Accelerator programme, we will be able to build a bridge between startups and the industry ecosystem and support them to drive innovation in the India market,” Glasberg added.

Applications for the first class is open till July 31 and the first class will start in September 2018.

In an effort to mentor emerging start-ups, Google India hosted a four-day boot camp for the first 10 Indian startups as part of its ‘Solve for India’ programme.

The India-focused accelerator programme is building on Google’s “Solve for India” roadshow from last year.

Ten Indian startups were shortlisted from across India which underwent four days in one-on-one consults with experts from Google and mentors from the industry to solve critical product and growth challenges.

“We shortlisted 10 startups from 160 home-grown start-ups by travelling across 15 cities in India, and are now ready to scale this pilot as a dedicated programme for India,” Karthik Padmanabhan, Developer Relations Lead, Google India, said at that time.

The participants were the founders of startups including Nebulaa, Slang Labs, PregBuddy, LegalDesk, PaySack, Vokal, FarMart, Meesho, Pratilipi and M-Indicator.

“Launchpad” regional accelerators are tailored specifically to their local markets, helping startups build great products, Google said.

IANS

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Fuel prices hiked for fifth consecutive day

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Petrol Price

New Delhi July 9: Petrol and diesel prices on Monday hiked for the fifth consecutive day, according to the Indian Oil Corporation data.

Petrol is being sold in Delhi at Rs.76.36 per litre, as against Rs.76.13 on Sunday, while diesel is being sold at Rs.68.07 per litre, as against Rs. 67.86 on the previous day.

While in Mumbai, petrol prices increased from Rs. 83.52 on Sunday, to Rs. 83.75 per litre on Monday, and diesel prices from Rs.72 to Rs. 72.23 per litre.

Members of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) last month, agreed to jointly increase oil production, which was estimated to be about one million barrels a day.

The deal, which came after days of negotiation, was reportedly aimed at easing fears of a global supply crunch.

WeForNews 

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China’s cross-border e-commerce players value India, Middle East markets

The Indian market enjoys a huge population and high potential for economic growth, thus attracting many e-commerce players to expand their presence.

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Beijing, July 8 (IANS) :China’s major cross-border e-commerce players put much focus on the Indian and Middle Eastern markets, a report revealed on Sunday.

According to app data provider App Annie, the Indian market enjoys a huge population and high potential for economic growth, thus attracting many e-commerce players to expand their presence, reports Xinhua news agency.

Smartphones are popular in Arab countries and local consumers have strong purchasing power.

But the oil-rich countries lack textiles and other light sectors, offering cross-border e-commerce opportunities for products like apparel.

Alibaba’s AliExpress tops the list, which mainly reviews the performances of third-party business-to-consumer e-commerce platforms targeting overseas consumers.

The report also showed that South American markets pose rising growth potential while developed markets in Europe and the US remain attractive to Chinese e-commerce players.

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